Archive for August, 2006

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Residents flee toxic chemicals from oil spill

August 31, 2006

LA PAZ, Guimaras – Hundreds of residents on the blackened coasts of Guimaras Island were being evacuated Thursday amid fears of toxic fumes unleashed by the Philippines’ worst oil spill, officials said.

Beaches were being cordoned off and residents of La Paz and nearby villages were being told to move inland after two weeks spent battling the black ooze from the Solar I tanker that sank on August 11.

The orders were issued by Guimaras Gov. Rahman Nava based on warnings issued by toxicologists commissioned by the health department, said Ramon Ortiz, a La Paz official who manned a checkpoint outside the village.

The fishing hamlet of about 400 people was almost deserted at noon as Ortiz, armed with a machete and a protective face mask and aided by other district officials, flagged down motorists to enforce the order.

At the community basketball court, blue tarp partly covered a huge stack of sacks laden with oil-slicked sand and debris.

The pile, which Ortiz said weighed about 100 tons, was oozing with a sticky asphalt-colored fluid under the brutal heat of the tropical sun.

(For the full story, click Ick.)

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Neighboring provinces aid Guimaras

August 31, 2006

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carla Gomez,
and Christine O. Avendaño

BACOLOD CITY — The League of Provinces of the Philippines and neighbors of Guimaras province on Wednesday gave the oil slick-hit province 6.5 million pesos at a meeting of the governors of the Visayas at the Negros Occidental provincial capitol in Bacolod City.

The governments of Aklan, Antique, Negros Occidental, Capiz and Iloilo gave 200,000 pesos each to the stricken province, while the League of Provinces of the Philippines gave 500,000 pesos.

Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, who told Gov. JC Rahman Nava that the grief of Guimaras over the oil spill devastation is shared by Cebuanos, gave 5 million pesos in aid.

“That is the beauty of the Visayan governors who are very solid and very close. We cooperate and support each other. If there were federal governments already we would be ready for it,” Antique Governor Salvacion Zaldivar-Perez said.

The Visayan governors also passed a resolution calling on Petron to hasten the cleanup of the M/T Solar I oil spill off the coast of Guimaras, Negros Oriental Gov. George Arnaiz said.

As this developed, Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said Thursday his department will embark on a program to bring back tourists to Guimaras, which caters mostly to domestic tourists, in three months’ time.

A 220-kilometer-stretch of Guimara’s coastline has been swamped with oil from the sunken tanker Solar 1 but its western coast has escaped the ravages of the oil spill.

“Upon the instructions of the President, we are undertaking a program just for Guimaras so that domestic tourism traffic will return there,” he told reporters in Malacañang after attending President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s round table discussion on the promotion of central Philippines as a super region.

The western side of Guimaras is where 17 of the island’s 24 beach resorts are located, and all are untouched by the August 11 oil spill that was caused when the tanker, carrying two million liters of oil, sank in bad weather off Guimaras.

Durano said that the minute the Department of Environment and Natural Resources certifies the seven affected beach resorts as cleared of toxins from the oil spill, the DoT would include them in its promotion of the island.

The DENR had been given until next week to complete its testing of waters in the seven affected beach resorts.

(For the full stories, click INQ7.net, Aug. 31, 2006.)

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Alsons firm gets free fuel from oil spill

August 31, 2006

THE oil sludge to be collected from the coastal waters off Guimaras Island will be shipped to Misamis Oriental in southern Philippines where it will be used for the production of cement, Defense chief Avelino Cruz said Thursday.

In a news briefing, Cruz said that on Sunday, a Light Cargo Tanker contracted by Petron Corp. and the Philippine Coast Guard would dock at an abandoned pier in Guimaras to collect the oil sludge.

“It (LCT) has a capacity of 2,000 metric tons and it will barge out (the oil sludge). Five dump trucks will be delivering the oil sludge into the barge for it to be delivered to Holcim cement in Misamis Oriental so that these oil sludge can be burned as fuel for making of cement,” said Cruz, who also chairs government’s Task Force Guimaras.

In its web site, Holcim Philippines Inc. claims to be the leading cement manufacturer in the Philippines, employing 1,400 employees in four plants across the archipelago.

It operates in four major plants – one in La Union, another in Bulacan, a third in Davao City and the Lugait Plant in Misamis Oriental. These plants account for a total installed clinker production capacity per year of 7.2 million metric tons and annual cement production capacity of 8.7 million metric tons.

(Click GMA News for the full story, Aug. 31, 2006. )

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OH guess who owns Holcim Cement? You have three chances. Give up?

While it is a global brand based in Europe, Holcim in the Philippines is a partnership between Union Cement Corp. (Hi Cement Corp., Davao Union Cement Corp. and Bacnotan Cement Corp.) and Alsons Cement Corp. The latter is owned by Petron chair Nick Alcantara’s family. Nick Alcantara is also a director of several firms under the Alcantara Group of Companies: Alsons Corp., Conal Corp., Alsons Insurance Brokers Corp., Saranggani Agricultural Co., Inc., Alsons Aquaculture Co., Inc., Alsons Development & Investment Corp., Alsons Land Corp., C. Alcantara & Sons, Inc., just to name a few.

For more on Holcim, click here and for Nick Alcantara’s resumé, click PSE form.

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Only 1 of 21 ‘black product’ tankers double-hulled – Marina

August 31, 2006

•‘Urgent legislation’ urged to address problems

By Joel Guinto

ONLY one of 21 tankers in the country that carry bunker fuel and other “black products” is double-hulled in accordance with international standards, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) has confirmed.

Marina administrator Vicente Suazo Jr. bared this fact at a meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, chaired by Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz Jr., in Camp Aguinaldo.

The M/T Solar I, whose August 11 sinking triggered the Visayas oil spill considered one of the worst in the country, was a single-hulled vessel but had a “double bottom,” meaning its lower portion was made of two layers of metal, Suazon said.

A double-hulled vessel, on the other hand, means the sides and bottom parts are made of two watertight layers so when the outer hull breaks, the inner hull can still protect the ship’s often hazardous cargo.

To address this problem, Cruz said “one proposal of the Marina is to require all oil tankers to be double hull by April 2008. This is the direction they are headed.”

There are a total of 214 tankers in the country, only 148 of which are operational and only 21 of which carry “black products.”

(For the full story, click INQ7.net, Aug. 31, 2006.)

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GMA has no budget for oil spill

August 31, 2006

By Veronica Uy

THE Senate will convert the two-billion-peso equity rental fee for the Metro Rail Transit in the 46.9-billion peso supplemental budget approved by the House of Representatives to the Guimaras oil spill fund, Senator Franklin Drilon told reporters Thursday.

The head of the Senate committee on finance said the two-billion-peso equity rental fee for the MRT was not included in the 2006 National Expenditure Program and was only “inserted for the creditors of MRT” by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) in the supplemental budget.

“We see no rhyme, no reason for this insertion…We [will] remove this two billion pesos and put it to the Guimaras oil spill fund, which will be used for the oil spill operations so that funds are immediately available and more importantly, will be used for livelihood and other assistance to those who are adversely affected by the Guimaras oil spill,” he said, noting that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had not allotted any funds for Guimaras.

After the House transmits its version of the bill to the Senate, they would conduct hearings, put it on the floor for debate not later than September 11, and pass it that same week.

(Click INQ7.net for the full story, Aug. 31, 2006.)

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Petron: Japanese ship can’t salvage Solar I

August 31, 2006

ALTHOUGH the arrival of Japanese ship Shinsei Maru came as a sigh of relief, distressed coastal villagers will have to wait a bit longer before the oil leak scare in Central Philippines comes to an end.

Petron Corp. told dzBB radio Thursday that the “actual salvaging” of the sunken tanker MT Solar I would only begin after another vessel arrives in the Guimaras Strait to carry out the job.

Meanwhile, Malacañang admitted Thursday that the Solar I sinking highlighted government’s helplessness against oil spills even as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo vowed that those reponsible for the tragedy “would pay dearly.”

“The current oil spill off Guimaras illustrates the seriousness of protecting our oceans and marine resources and our helplessness in dealing with accidents of this magnitude,”Mrs Arroyo, in a speech read by Presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor, said.

The prepared speech was read during the conferment ceremony for the 41st Master in National Security Administration graduates held at Malacanang’s Heroes’ Hall.

(For the full story, click GMA News.)

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4 of 9 owners of sunken ship already out of the country

August 31, 2006

By Tetch Torres

FOUR of the nine owners of an oil tanker that sank into the Guimaras Strait have left the country long before the Bureau of Immigration placed them on its watchlist, an Immigration official said Thursday.

Japanese nationals Tomoki Tsubomoto, Hiromi Irishika and Mototsugu Yamaguchi departed the Philippines in May 2001, while Gregorio Flores left only last May, said Gary Mendoza, chief of the Immigration Regulations Divisions.

The nine, owners of Sunshine Maritime Development Corp. which operated the sunken M/T Solar 1, were barred Wednesday from leaving the country.

But another Japanese incorporator, Hiroyasu Yamaguchi, arrived in the Philippines on Wednesday last week, Mendoza said.

In his hold-departure order, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said the company officials were being investigated for possible violations of environmental laws relating to the oil spill.

(Click INQ7.net for the full story, Aug. 31, 2006.)